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Preview: Sporting, Salt Lake look to continue surging

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RIO TINTO STADIUM, Sandy, Utah
9 p.m. ET (KSMO; watch LIVE online)
September 17, 2011 (WEEK 27; MLS Game 260)

Two teams looking to continue their marches up the table meet at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday evening when Real Salt Lake play host to Sporting Kansas City. Real are now just a point out of the top three in the Western Conference and the automatic playoff spots after their 2-1 win at Seattle last weekend. Sporting briefly pulled into a tie atop the Eastern Conference after their 3-0 win against Houston, concluding a nine-game homestand.

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REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Peter Manikowski; 4th: Tyler Ploeger
MLS Career: 138 games; FC/gm: 26.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 42; pens: 54

INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE — OUT: MF Nelson González (R foot fracture); MF Javier Morales (L ankle fracture dislocation); GK Kyle Reynish (R ankle sprain); DF Chris Wingert (L wrist fracture); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Agorsor (R hand fracture); PROBABLE: DF Robbie Russell (L back spasms); FW Álvaro Saborío (R knee effusion) ... SPORTING KANSAS CITY — OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); DOUBTFUL: DF Chance Myers (R foot contusion), MF Birahim Diop (back strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: RSL: Tony Beltran (through Sept. 17)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: RSL: Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Russell
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: RSL: Jean Alexandre, Fabian Espindola, Chris Wingert ... KC: Omar Bravo, Julio Cesar, Birahim Diop, Graham Zusi

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (14 meetings): Real 4 wins, 18 goals ... Sporting 6 wins, 20 goals ... Ties 3
AT SALT LAKE (6 meetings): Real 3 wins, 11 goals ... Sporting 2 wins, 9 goals ... Ties 1

  • In the first meeting this season, Aug. 3 at Livestrong Sporting Park, Roger Espinoza and Teal Bunbury scored five minutes apart in the first half to lead SKC to a 2-0 victory.
  • Kansas City won 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 16, 2009, RSLís last loss at home before falling to Seattle on May 28 of this season.
  • The road teams won both meetings in 2009.
  • Coaches record: Jason Kreis vs. KC: P9 W3 L4 D2 ... Peter Vermes v RSL: P4 W1 L2 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)
8/3: KC 2, RSL 0 (Espinoza 29; Bunbury 34)

  • Sporting opened the scoring on 29 minutes. Roger Espinoza stole a pass at the top of the box and burst into the area before driving a left-footed rocket just under the sprawling Nick Rimando in the RSL goal.
  • Just five minutes later, SKC was up 2-0. Rimando made an impressive diving save on a Kei Kamara header from a long throw, but could only push it wide of the goalmouth, and Alex Bunbury swooped in to hammer the rebound off Rimando's hand and to the back of the net.
  • Kansas City went down a man in the 56th minute after Espinoza was sent off for a tackle from behind on Kyle Beckerman, but the visitors could not take advantage.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Michael Harrington, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Roger Espinoza (sent off 57), Jeferson (Birahim Diop 79) - Kei Kamara (C.J. Sapong 74), Omar Bravo (Luke Sassano 94+), Graham Zusi - Teal Bunbury.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran (Robbie Russell 68), Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, Arturo Alvarez (Andy Williams 59) - Collen Warner (Luis Gil 65) - Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.

REAL SALT LAKE

Real Salt Lake extended their winning streak to three games, defeating Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. RSL is in fourth place in the Western Conference, with 45 points from 26 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Real Salt Lake were handed a stunning lead after 13 minutes. RSLís Fabián Espíndola sent in a seemingly harmless cross from the left, but Keller all but through it into his goal while looking to put it over the line for a corner.
  • Sounders FC had a chance to pull level in the 16th minute, but Mauro Rosales put his penalty kick wide after striker Mike Fucito was taken down in the box by RSL defender Jámison Olave.
  • Both teams then went a man down in the space of four minutes. RSL's Tony Beltran received a second yellow card for a challenge against Rosales in the 35th minute, but Seattle's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado saw a straight red in the 39th minute after a foul on Alvaro Saborío.
  • Yet the home side were able to hit for the equalizer in first-half stoppage time. Rosales turned the corner on the left and sent a return pass back across for Fredy Montero, who converted from close range.
  • But after the break RSL again took the lead. Alvaro Saborio took a pass in the area, and after his first attempt was blocked and Sounders FC defender Tyson Wahl failed to clear, he again latched onto the ball and sent it to the back of the net.
  • RSL coach Jason Kreis made three changes to the side that defeated Philadelphia Union 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Nat Borchers returned from suspension for Chris Schuler, Will Johnson came back from international duty for Collen Warner, and Alvaro Saborio came in up top for Paulo Junior.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran (sent off 35) - Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson - Luis Gil (Chris Schuler 46) - Fabian Espindola (Paulo Jr. 79), Alvaro Saborio (Ned Grabavoy 68).

TEAM NEWS

  • After losing back-to-back games twice in a five-game span, Real Salt Lake have now won three games in a row, their longest league winning streak since winning the first four games of the 2011 MLS season.
  • "It is true, going through this season this team started to get rattled but lately they have stayed very resilient, disciplined and together," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "I'm proud and happy we had learned through all of this and hopefully we are a better team."
  • After not figuring for Real Salt Lake against Philadelphia — available on the bench after playing 90 minutes for Costa Rica the night before — Alvaro Saborio returned to the RSL lineup and regained the club scoring lead with his eighth goal.
  • With Tony Beltran sent off, Chris Schuler came in as a halftime substitute and returned to central defense, coming on for Luis Gil. Schuler had started six of the previous seven games, first with Jamison Olave injured (five games) then Nat Borchers suspended.
  • The own goal was the first credited to a goalkeeper this season, and the eighth in league history.
  • "It was a strange goal. At first I thought it went towards the side of the goal. I really don't know what happened. Saborio was trying to cross it but it just ended up in the back of the net," said Kreis.
  • While still outside the three automatic qualifying spots in the Western Conference, Real are 10 points behind MLS overall leaders LA Galaxy with eight games to play (and two games in hand).
  • After the visit by Sporting KC, Real have five of their six games away from Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL has a league-leading nine wins in home games this season; it is 4-5-3 on its travels.
  • "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said RSL defender Nat Borchers. "We have a lot of tough games down the road."

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Sporting Kansas City concluded their long homestand in impressive fashion, rolling to a 3-0 win Saturday against the Houston Dynamo at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 40 points from 28 matches on the season, now in second first place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • Sporting opened the scoring after just nine minutes. Graham Zusi sent a long ball from his own half up the center channel, and a streaking Teal Bunbury raced past a Dynamo defender and poked it past a charging Tally Hall guarding the goal.
  • SKC then doubled their lead in the 73rd minute through similar circumstances. J˙lio CÈsar sent a brilliant, driven ball that split the Houston defense and Bunbury again raced onto the end of it, sending a left-footed finish that Hall got a hand on but couldn't keep out.
  • The Dynamo went down a man when Carlo Costly was sent off by referee Mark Geiger for a clattering tackle on Chance Myers in the 64th minute.
  • The Sky Blues then tripled the lead six minutes later. Graham Zusi played Kei Kamara into space on the right flank, and he slid a ball across the top of the six-yard box where C.J. Sapong came sliding in to put the ball into the back of the net.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made one change to the team that came back for a 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy at Livestrong Sporting Park. Teal Bunbury came back into the team, in place of Aurelien Collin.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-1-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers (Michael Harrington 78), Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza - Jeferson (Davy Arnaud 57) - C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury (Kei Kamara 74), Omar Bravo.

TEAM NEWS

  • It will be the first road game for Sporting since July 16, when they tied Houston 1-1 at Robertson Stadium.
  • "We have been home for the last two months and now having to go play Salt Lake on the road is going to be a change for us. We're all over the place, we were away from home the whole time and now we've been home for a while," said manager Peter Vermes. "I think just the rhythm of going on the road is going to be one thing for us. Real Salt Lake is a very good team and they're even better at home."
  • They went 5-2-2 on their MLS-record nine-game homestand, moving from a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, into a tie for the top spot in the division at the end of the weekend.
  • "I don't think we've achieved anything yet. Nothing's over, we've got a long way to go still. We as a group; players, coaching staff, support staff, front office, ownership, everyone has belief that we are going to move forward and that we are getting back," said Vermes.
  • KC's Teal Bunbury scored three goals in the first three games of the season — then went more than three months without a league goal. He now has four goals in the last eight games after his second two-goal game of the season vs. Houston.
  • "I don't think we've seen his best yet. Teal is continuing to grow and develop as a player. I think the one thing that he brought in today's game was when he is as physical as he was and finds himself teetering on that last line," said Vermes. "He puts a lot of fear in a lot of teams. He is very direct and can go to goal and really has breakaway speed. And when he gets around the goal, I think he can be deadly."
  • Said Bunbury: "They were great balls in and I was just trying to be aware and make more runs. I knew if I'm one-on-one with a guy it's my job to try to get behind and get on the ball and try to finish. As a striker I always say, 'It's your duty to score goals' and I feel like I did that but it's all credit to the guys playing brilliant balls into me and I was fortunate enough to get some goals."
  • It was a third defensive shutout in the last seven games for Sporting, but it also came after allowing five goals in the previous two games.
  • "The shutout is huge for us. We talk about being hard to score against, and tonight I can't remember (Houston) having a real clear chance and that says loads for our defense. They really stepped it up tonight and it puts a statement out there to the league and it puts a lot of pressure on Columbus to perform," said Graham Zusi.
  • Said goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen: The shutout is great, but it's not the most important thing for me. Winning the game is the objective, so having a shutout is great. The guys did an incredible job today to make my job very, very easy ... When I don't have anything to do it means the team is doing well and that's most important."
  • After a change for the LA game with Aurelien Collin returning to the back four and Chance Myers moving farther up the park in a wide position, Vermes reverted to what's become his first-choice defensive line.
  • "Not only has Seth (Sinovic) been very good, Chance Myers has been very good and when Collin went out with his back injury I think Julio has been stellar," Vermes said. "Most people don't know the places that he's played. Real Madrid, AC Milan. That experience in the high level games that he's played has really come out in these games that he has stepped back there. I can't say enough about all the guys that come in."